Regular users of Wellington’s Champford Lane will probably be familiar with the transformation over the last few years of a weed-covered, overgrown patch of land near Champford Mews into an attractive garden. And it’s all the work of one determined individual rather than the council.
John McCarten has lived in Tall Trees, named after the stately silver birches in his garden, in Willcocks Close for 9 years. The patch – named ‘Ivy’s Patch’ in memory of John’s mother – is an ongoing project that has recently acquired an additional feature – a prancing horse made out of teak and appropriately christened ‘Copenhagen’ to commemorate the Duke of Wellington’s horse which he rode in the Battle of Waterloo. John bought the horse when it was offered for sale at Blackdown Garden Centre and his long-term ambition is to see it resited at the Wellington Monument when the National Trust’s restoration project is completed and the land around it made attractive to both visitors and local people once again.
‘Ivy’s Patch’ includes part of the original wall of the town’s Gas Works which John has acknowledged with a stylish wooden plaque but, despite its historical significance, adopting the land was not a simple process endorsed by the town council. John explained: “About 5 years ago I tried to find out who owned it and spoke to the Land Registry who told me that if I took it on for 12 years it would become mine. I then wrote to the council who replied within a week claiming it was theirs – but they couldn’t clear it because of lack of money.
“As I own a metre of land out from the wall, Somerset Highways then said they would license it to me and agreed to pay half the cost of clearance. Now it will always belong to the house as long as it’s kept in good condition.”
And there’s no doubt about the good condition of the attractive plot which features flowering plants, bushes – some given by neighbours, raised beds and even tomato plants. John has kept his own photographic record of the whole process from an unsightly tangle of weeds to a elegant garden in which Copenhagen is now a central feature.
But the garden is not the only project on John McCarten’s list. Having had his delightful ‘Man Cave’ decorated by artist Rosie Caley whose father, Martin, lives in Wellington, the building, now covered with charming scenes of the Monument and The Blackdown Hills, is reaching a wider audience – and for a purpose. Thirty of John’s friends and neighbours paid £10 to have their favourite creature included in the mural which is now featured on Christmas cards, postcards and limited edition signed prints, all created in a collaboration between John and the National Trust’s Community Fundraising and Engagement Officer, Emma Jones. The initial aim is to cover printing costs and then put profits towards the Monument restoration project. The cards, postcards and prints are on sale and will become more widely available over the coming weeks through a number of outlets in the town.
And for the future? “Maybe a jigsaw,” said John. His drive and sense of purpose provides an example to the whole community of what is possible.